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Issuing County Court summons query: Supporting documents, how many copies to send, paper vs. online


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I have some questions about the correct procedures for County Court summonses. I'd be really grateful if anyone could advise me on any of these queries. I have read the guidance notes for both online and paper forms but still have some uncertainties.

 

Background: I am about to issue a County Court summons for unpaid compensation for use of part of my property by a builder. The basis of the compensation is set out in an agreement and related emails.

 

My questions:

1) When sending in a paper N1 form, is it correct to send supporting paperwork with it? E.g. Copies of agreements, contracts, print outs of related emails.

 

2) Exactly how many copies of the N1 form, defendant's notes, and supporting documents (if these should be sent with the N1) do I need to send?

 

I assume from the guidance that it should be a total of three copies of everything: One copy (i.e. the original form) for the court, one copy for the defendant, and one copy for me (to be sent back to me).

 

3) I was originally planning to issue the summons online but the Particulars of Claim box on the MCOL website is absurdly small. How does anyone explain the key points of their case with so few characters and lines to work with?

 

Any help on these queries will be really helpful. :-)

 

 

 

Edit: I have found the answer for question 4. Questions 1, 2 and 3 still confuse me.

 

Answered question below:

4) I am aware that one can send additional PoC by post if using the online form but, as I understand it, these later PoC are only to be sent to the defendant. The Court and the Judge will not see them unless and until the case comes to a hearing. Is this correct, or should one send additional PoC to the court as well as to the defendant?

 

Answer: I see that form N215 'Certificate of service' requires that documents sent to the defendant must also be sent to the Court.

Edited by oldguy
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All but the most difficult cases can be issued through MCOL, the PoC are not the place for detailed explanations nor do you normally attach supporting documents.

 

Your witness statement and/or response to defence, if entered, are the place for a detailed account of what has gone on.

 

The disclosure stage is the point at which supporting documents are produced.

 

Most PoC can be summarised by saying:

 

"We agreed X by an agreement dated xxxxx

 

The defendant did Y

 

He is therefore in breach because Z

 

My losses directly attributable to that loss are summarised as (one or more heads of claim)

 

And the Claimant claims £x together with interest pursuant to s69 of the County Courts Act 1984 amount to £x to the date of issue and £y per day thereafter."

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All but the most difficult cases can be issued through MCOL, the PoC are not the place for detailed explanations nor do you normally attach supporting documents.

 

Thank you for your response, that's most informative.

 

Your witness statement and/or response to defence, if entered, are the place for a detailed account of what has gone on.

 

The disclosure stage is the point at which supporting documents are produced.

 

Assuming that a defence has been entered and the Allocations forms have been sent back to the Court then I see that the Court will issue directions to the parties to send copies of all documents to each other and to the Court. I take it that is the disclosure stage. Is that correct?

 

That leaves the "witness statement". At what stage is that to be provided? From reading all the guidance notes I can find, it does not seem to clear to me when I would get the opportunity to make a witness statement, other than verbally at a hearing.

 

I am asking these rather detailed questions because on a previous occasion some years ago I issued a County Court summons and the case went to a hearing. However, I had no opportunity to make any kind of statement whatsoever at the hearing itself. The Judge had already decided the outcome to the case (not in my favour) when we arrived at the hearing and in retrospect I feel I had not provided adequate information to support my case since, at the time, I was not aware of any opportunities to do so. Therefore I really need to be clear this time as to exactly what steps occur at what stages and when I can add more detailed information.

 

It seems, as above, that the disclosure stage follows the allocation questionnaire stage but at what stage (before or after this) should a more detailed explanation of my case be provided?

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That's right, disclosure will be one of the standard directions.

 

You can lodge a witness statement with your reply to the defence. There you can set out the chronology in as much detail as you think necessary to enable the court to understand the issue.

 

Unless there are any applications within the proceedings a judge is unlikely to see the file until the day of the hearing, so don't worry that you are disadvantaging yourself in that sense.

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Thank you very much. That makes a lot more sense.

 

May I impose upon you once more by asking one more question for clarity: Would it be a massive procedural faux pas for me to include copies of the main supporting documents (specifically the original agreement and closely relating emails) with my witness statement when I respond to the defence? There aren't many such documents (5 or 6) and it would seem like the natural time to make them available.

 

Later on at the disclosure stage I would in fact send some more documents, specifically print outs and records of all communications exchanged with the defendant since I may refer to some of them in a hearing (if necessary) but they are not the key basis for my case.

Edited by oldguy
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I don't see why not.

 

The court can direct that a matter proceed without a reply t the defence but I don't know any circumstances when it does so.

 

It may not remind you that you can file a reply to the defence but it is your right to do so.

 

If you want to disclose key documents prior to your obligation to do so (why - is this an attempt to persuade the there side that your case is unanswerable?) then they could be included as exhibits to your witness statement/reply to defence but you must remember that having disclosed them in that way you are still obliged to re-disclose them when you are doing disclosure in accordance with the directions.

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I've never known a Reply to Defence to be used in such a way. It's supposed to reply point by point to the Defence, don't confuse it with a witness statement which is filed and served later on in the process as a Reply to Defence is a very different thing.

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I've never known a Reply to Defence to be used in such a way. It's supposed to reply point by point to the Defence, don't confuse it with a witness statement which is filed and served later on in the process as a Reply to Defence is a very different thing.

 

 

All I can say is that I have seen it done fairly regularly both as claimant and defendant (at work) and no-one has every taken issue with it (although I do keep saying to OP that there is no need to do it at this stage, s/he seems determined to do so, perhaps by reason of the earlier matter where they were involved and where they feel they didn't get opportunity to properly argue their case?)

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All I can say is that I have seen it done fairly regularly both as claimant and defendant (at work) and no-one has every taken issue with it (although I do keep saying to OP that there is no need to do it at this stage, s/he seems determined to do so, perhaps by reason of the earlier matter where they were involved and where they feel they didn't get opportunity to properly argue their case?)

 

Filing a Rely to Defence is fine, but I was referring to the OP who said he was filing a witness statement with his Reply which would not be correct. As I said, the Reply should match the Defence point by point and respond.

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Filing a Rely to Defence is fine, but I was referring to the OP who said he was filing a witness statement with his Reply which would not be correct. As I said, the Reply should match the Defence point by point and respond.

 

Yes, I agree that this would be the normal course, but wht I am saying is that I have seen them accompanied by evidence and never seen any objection raised.

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Yes, I agree that this would be the normal course, but wht I am saying is that I have seen them accompanied by evidence and never seen any objection raised.

 

Evidence, but not a WS.

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I don't think it is a good idea to do a reply to the Defence. Better to keep one's powder dry I would say.

 

But if the OP is going to do it then they could do it correctly.

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It may not remind you that you can file a reply to the defence but it is your right to do so.

 

Ah, that's interesting.

 

If you want to disclose key documents prior to your obligation to do so (why - is this an attempt to persuade the there side that your case is unanswerable?) then they could be included as exhibits to your witness statement/reply to defence but you must remember that having disclosed them in that way you are still obliged to re-disclose them when you are doing disclosure in accordance with the directions.

 

Thanks for the clarification about re-disclosing them.

 

I have no special strategy for wanting to disclose the key documents at the reply to defence stage. It simply seems the logical time to do it since my witness statement must refer to them. There is nothing secret about them: They are just the set of document that constitute the contract between myself and the defendant in this case. There is no disadvantage to me in disclosing them and no advantage to the defendant. They are simply what the court will need to make a decision.

 

This is a very simple case (famous last words). The reason for my questions here are that I simply need to understand the flowchart of procedure. There is a lot of documentation and guidance available but, in my view, it is not well joined together and what is available seems to miss out key information that a layperson would ideally need.

 

In my case, I have to say that the natural and logical place to explain my case would seem to be in the PoC. But you say that is not the place. The lack of space on the MCOL PoC concurs with what you say. But to me, as a non-expert, that seems strange and counter-intuitive. Indeed, whilst researching what can go in a PoC I have found several examples that were much longer and detailed than my own one would need to be. However, these were in personal injury cases and overcharging claims against banks. There is no way that these claims could have been entered on MCOL (other than by choosing the option to send additional PoC later).

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Ah, that's interesting.

 

 

 

Thanks for the clarification about re-disclosing them.

 

I have no special strategy for wanting to disclose the key documents at the reply to defence stage. It simply seems the logical time to do it since my witness statement must refer to them. There is nothing secret about them: They are just the set of document that constitute the contract between myself and the defendant in this case. There is no disadvantage to me in disclosing them and no advantage to the defendant. They are simply what the court will need to make a decision.

 

This is a very simple case (famous last words). The reason for my questions here are that I simply need to understand the flowchart of procedure. There is a lot of documentation and guidance available but, in my view, it is not well joined together and what is available seems to miss out key information that a layperson would ideally need.

 

In my case, I have to say that the natural and logical place to explain my case would seem to be in the PoC. But you say that is not the place. The lack of space on the MCOL PoC concurs with what you say. But to me, as a non-expert, that seems strange and counter-intuitive. Indeed, whilst researching what can go in a PoC I have found several examples that were much longer and detailed than my own one would need to be. However, these were in personal injury cases and overcharging claims against banks. There is no way that these claims could have been entered on MCOL (other than by choosing the option to send additional PoC later).

 

They can't go through MCOL anyway.

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So... to get the procedural story straight for what should be a simple case (where I am claiming for money based upon a contract that has not been fulfilled), the following is my understanding of what happens when. Please do correct me if I am wrong on any of these points:-

 

1) It is usual in simple cases like this to provide nothing other than the barest details in the PoC? No supporting documents are normally supplied with the PoC.

A long time ago (pre-MCOL) I worked for a business which often had to issue summonses for non-payment. (It was not my job but I was familiar with what happened). In that case I know it was normal practice for them to send a copy of the unpaid invoice and Ts&Cs together with the N1 form. It seemed to work for them. Was this in fact incorrect procedure?

2) It is possible to enter a reply to the defence but this is not necessary unless there is some overwhelming need to do so?

I find this odd: It makes no sense to reply to the defence at this stage when the defendant has not yet had a chance to see any details of the claimant's case. If the PoC is as sparse as I now understood it to be then the defendant could only enter a similarly sparse defence at this stage.

 

I also infer that entering a reply to the defence is NOT commonly done in simple County Court cases, especially, as I also infer, if it is not normally the procedure for the Court to tell claimants that they can do this. Is this correct?

3) It is normal to supply a more detailed description of my case (my witness statement) later on?

In my case, this would be a rather brief one page document. It could not possibly hope to fit in the MCOL PoC box but would fit well in the paper N1 form's PoC box.

4) The stage at which a more detailed description of my case (i.e. my witness statement as well as any supporting documents or other documents that I might wish to refer to in a hearing) would be supplied is the disclosure stage?

Edited by oldguy
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(although I do keep saying to OP that there is no need to do it at this stage, s/he seems determined to do so

 

Filing a Rely to Defence is fine, but I was referring to the OP who said he was filing a witness statement with his Reply which would not be correct.

 

For the avoidance of doubt, I don't care where my detailed case (which I now understand to be my witness statement) is entered or disclosed. I simply need to be sure that it is at the correct stage in the overall procedure.

 

I came to this thread because I thought that the natural and obvious place for this piece of information would be in the PoC. However, I was confused because the MCOL PoC box is too small for anything other than a few words. The PoC space on the paper N1 form, however, is just the right size for what I would need to say.

 

I learned that it is in fact normal practice for the PoC to be very terse. Ok, that makes sense.

 

However, I took it from stevemLS's comments that the reply to defence stage was an appropriate place to enter my witness statement. It seems that this is not necessarily so. Note that I had no special desire to enter my witness statement at this stage. I am just looking for the right place to do it and I would have expected it to be as early as possible in the proceedings so that the defence knew to a reasonable degree what they were defending against.

 

In more complex cases I can well imagine that a witness statement might go much further than the PoC could or would need to but, in this case, it seems to me that the witness statement and PoC could effectively be identical. Indeed, if I was filling in the paper form I'd just have gone ahead and written what I needed to on that. And that is why I was confused about why MCOL's PoC box was so small.

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I wouldn't use MCOL.

 

Issue the claim form with a full particulars with your legal arguments (not a waffley story) and attach the contract you rely on.

 

Simples.

 

Well, that's exactly what I was going (after I discovered that the MCOL PoC was so small) to do but it now seems like it's not the usual way to do things.

 

I only came here to ask questions because I had some fairly minor (I thought) uncertainties about procedure. ;-)

 

Can I just ask (because despite all this I'm still not clear on it): If one does not use the PoC as one's witness statement, at what point is is normal to enter the witness statement? I presume it should be with all the other documentation at the disclosure stage?

Edited by oldguy
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No, the Particulars of Claim should not be identical. The PoC is the bones and the witness statement adds meat to it if you like.

 

You will be ordered to file and serve witness statements by the Court at the appropriate time further on in the claim.

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Well, that's exactly what I was going to do but it now seems like it's not the usual way to do things.

 

I only came here to ask questions because I had some fairly minor uncertainties about procedure. ;-)

 

Can I just ask (because despite all this I'm still not clear on it): If one does not use the PoC as one's witness statement, at what point is is normal to enter the witness statement? I presume it should be with all the other documentation at the disclosure stage?

 

Correct.

 

The timeline will be roughly:

 

1. Issue

2. Acknowledgement of claim

3. Defence filed

4. Optional Reply to Defence

5. Directions Questionnaires completed

6. Court sets Directions

7. Disclosure

8. Witness Statement (sometimes ordered at the same time as Disclosure)

9. Final hearing

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No, the Particulars of Claim should not be identical. The PoC is the bones and the witness statement adds meat to it if you like.

 

Yup, I appreciate that in general.

 

It's just that in simple cases where the bones of it are in fact all there is to it, it seems to me that one would serve as the other. In other words, where the space for the PoC on the form offers the room to say everything that the claimant would need to say in a witness statement then an additional separate witness statement seems functionally redundant to me.

 

Note also that the paper N1 form has separate spaces for 'Brief details of claim' and 'Particulars of Claim', further implying to the non-expert that the PoC could be used in this way in simple cases.

 

Correct.

 

The timeline will be roughly:

 

1. Issue

2. Acknowledgement of claim

3. Defence filed

4. Optional Reply to Defence

5. Directions Questionnaires completed

6. Court sets Directions

7. Disclosure

8. Witness Statement (sometimes ordered at the same time as Disclosure)

9. Final hearing

 

Thank you for this. It's very helpful.

 

In the normal course of events, if the witness statement is not ordered at the same time as disclosure, will there be an explicit order made to enter a witness statement?

 

 

[Oops, I missed you saying that "you will be ordered to file and serve witness statements by the Court at the appropriate time further on in the claim".]

Edited by oldguy
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Thanks everyone who assisted above.

 

Here is the PoC I intend to submit via MCOL. I have redacted it to remove private details.

 

1. Claimant and Defendant agreed by agreements dated [date] and [date] for compensation for use of Claimant's [something] during building work in [place nearby] by Defendant.

2. Defendant has not provided compensation as agreed.

3. Compensation not provided: [item] of £[value]; [another item] of £[value];

    , £[value]; Less Claimant's portion of [another item agreed to share]: £[value].

    4. Claimant claims total loss of £[value] together with interest, amount to £[value] to date of issue with £[value] per day thereafter.

     

    The MCOL form itself provides the complete statutory wording for claiming interest, so I am in effect repeating myself a little bit in the final line.

     

    Is this ok? I expect someone who actually knows what they are doing could have made it considerably more succinct.

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